Listening to "Wichita Lineman" by the great, seldom sober Glen Campbell and the equally great Jimmy Webb.
And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman
Is still on the line . . . . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I wish I could tell you that GB and LP met with success and happiness. I really do. They have each traveled their own winding roads downward.
GB, ever the dreamer, floated his way aimlessly and effortlessly through high school and university. Being an otherworldly person, he really had no ambition for possessions, other than his Segovia guitar. GB, to borrow an old quote, often depended upon the kindness of strangers, and was forever stranded here or there. He had no car. More times than not, we would drive downtown to pick him up, only to find him sitting on the corner playing his guitar for happy dancing homeless winos and being completely broke and starving because he gave them the little bit of money he had in his pocket for bus fare. After awhile, we convinced him to pack a sandwich or two, and more times than not, he gave those away, too.
GB, every bit as talented as LP, had used his muse as an escape as much as he had used it as a motivator. I can close my eyes and see my dad standing in the doorway of GB's room, spewing poison at him. "You are a goddamn, useless lazy ass, and that is all you will ever be!" GB didn't ascribe to the particular flavor of assertive manhood that my father felt was a hallmark of any man worth his salt, so GB was rarely ever in my father's good graces. GB had a way of closing his eyes and playing through these diatribes; this was his own flavor of nonviolent protest, and passive aggression, if you will, and it completely exasperated my father. Despite his superior playing ability, GB has never garnered the respect from my father that was lavished upon LP.
Fate has a funny way of turning everything upside down. GB was a sweet recluse, and very very handsome. My sister's friends, and all of my friends, without exception, professed crushes for him. He was charismatic in a very shy, gentle way, and of course I thought he was wonderful. GB never realized his power of attraction; he was self-deprecating and likely to avoid social contact of any kind. The one exception to this was performing. For some reason, he was able to rise above his reclusive nature when he performed. I always thought that was because he played for himself and for the love of the music, the audience always seemed voyeuristic and of no consequence to him.
Anyway, one summer after his junior year of college, he took a temporary job in a mailroom to earn a little bit of money. He met a girl a few years older than he was. She was tall and willowy, artsy and flighty and beautiful. Within just a few months, he and she were nervously announcing to our family that they would soon marry and have a child. We were all shell-shocked. We worried. How would he cope with this? What had he gotten himself into?
This changed GB. Much to everyone's surprise, he immediately got full-time employment, and began playing and teaching as many nights as he could. His artsy, flighty wife began to be less artsy and more schizophrenic - something that she had battled all of her life. GB's resilience lasted about 5 years, then he began to lose his drive to work so hard, and he once again retreated into his own world, playing while his wife drunkenly screamed and yelled at him that he was a terrible provider and a worthless person. Their life together has been chaotic, fraught with one financial crisis after another. They have 2 sons, both of which are nearly grown now.
Despite all of this, GB still takes great pride in his playing and composing, and he is one of the finest guitarists in the country, I am proud to say. He conducts master classes, travels abroad, writes for a classical guitar magazine, and earns barely a pittance. The family has spent most of the last 10 years hiding from creditors and trying to live down a couple of foreclosures. Most of the time, GB seems hellbent on "fiddling calmly while Rome burns."
LP is quite a different story. I don't know why, but none of us ever realized that LP struggled with anxiety. His outbursts and screaming and insistence on perfection, his hours of practicing and his beratement of others hid a deep secret: LP suffered from performance anxiety. When he discovered pot, it was just the thing he needed to "take the edge off" and it was a gateway to a whole world of self-medication that he has never, ever returned from.
LP's talent has never betrayed him. He has had a lucrative career as a studio musician, and he has toured and played all over the country. People are initially blown away by LP's playing, but they soon tire of his mood swings, tirades and temper tantrums, so he never has any kind of tenure anywhere. Every professional association or situation for LP ends badly, but for every opportunity lost, there are always 3 more that await him. Like my parents, the people that feed off his talents are willing to suffer his wrath. Unlike my parents, they don't suffer it for long. He has had an endless string of girlfriends, contracts, agents, bands, partners, and he attaches and detaches with relative ease. The one constant in his life that has never deserted him: drugs. They have been his savior and his ruin.
It is hard for me to really give a lot of detail about LP. He and I have been estranged for years. He was cruel to me when I was too little to defend myself, and I have never found it in my heart to forgive that.
He has had a few arrests over the years (DUI, assault) but he has never served any time or really been bothered very much - the fines are always well within his ability to pay without feeling the pain. More times than not, he has called GB to bail him out, and GB always does.
He has had a series of casual lady friends, but only a couple of longtime, serious girlfriends. The woman that he had the longest relationship with is currently in prison for 18 years; she was driving their dealer's car while high on coke and killed an off-duty cop and his wife, and severely injured the toddler sleeping in the backseat.
If you saw him on the street, honestly you would have no idea that he was an addict. He is always impeccably dressed, he frequents the finest restaurants, and he pretty much lives "the high life" (no pun intended). He currently lives with a 20 year old Portugese girl, an absolute beauty that speaks practically no English, knows nothing of his past, and adores him. I have heard through the grapevine that they are planning to wed this September so that she can escape deportation. He is still using. I am already cringing.
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